Almost that time again: Part the Second of Bilbo Baggins’ Great Adventure gets a trailer in this first look at Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Lots of Legolas and Thranduil (Lee Pace) here, as well as our first looks at Bard (Luke Burns), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), Beorn (in CGI-form), and even the Great Wyrm, tho’ he does not speak (perhaps because he sounds a mite like…”John Harrison.”)
General Veers, prepare your men for a whiskey, neat. The Emperor’s Cabinet, a.k.a. an AT-AT wet bar, made of plywood, mahogany, brass, and glass. Hey, Skywalker, don’t be getting drunk and toppling this beautiful imperial machinery.
“Every day, on every episode, in every set of rushes, Matt Smith surprised me: the way he’d turn a line, or spin on his heels, or make something funny, or out of nowhere make me cry, I just never knew what was coming next. The Doctor can be clown and hero, often at the same time, and Matt rose to both challenges magnificently.”
Get out the crane, regeneration time again: Who is it this time? After four years in the bowtie, Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith is calling it quits“It’s been an honor to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the TARDIS for a spell with ‘the ginger, the nose and the impossible one’. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls.”
I had doubts about his casting at first, but I have to say, Smith really nailed the part these past few years. When the show was not at its best — and, let’s face it, the quality’s been patchier than anticipated thus far in the Moffatt era — it was almost always the writing who let this Doctor down, not the reverse. He’s right up there at the top of my list with Baker and Pertwee.
Of course, this means we’ll see an all-new 12th incarnation at the end of this year’s Christmas special. (Or is it 13th? Only John Hurt knows.) Given that the usual high-profile and/or out-of-the-box choices — Idris Elba, Bill Nighy, David Morrissey, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Helen Mirren — turned out to be wrong last time around (although all of those would be intriguing choices), I’ll start the bidding with…Paul Kaye?
“You know cold fusion isn’t actually cold, right? It’s only ‘cold’ in the sense that opposed to regular fusion it’s not a bazillion degrees hot…And did you say Spock was in the volcano? Why the hell didn’t they just beam the bomb in there?…And why did Spock have to go with the bomb to set it off? Are you telling me in the 23rd century that people don’t have a way to detonate bombs remotely?”
Io9′s Rob Bricken offers a much-deserved evisceration of Star Trek: Into Darkness (and he doesn’t even bring up the “why Khan’s blood but not one of the other 71 guys” problem.) The first one had a number of egregious plot holes too, of course, but it at least had a charming cast and the benefit of novelty. The charming cast remains, but since Into Darkness is otherwise just a lousy and ultimately insulting remix of Wrath of Khan with a frisson of 9/11, the extreme dumbness here is even more aggravating.
“This has been a wild and exciting project for us, and it’s taken an international team of designers, engineers, structural consultants, model builders, and logistics personal over a year to bring this model from a conception to reality,’ Varszegi said in an email. ‘In one respect, designing it was the ‘easy’ part, as we were creating a scaled version of an actual toy construction set.’”
“My name is General Zod. I have crossed an ocean of stars to reach you. Your world has sheltered one of my citizens…To Kal-El, I say this: Surrender within 24 hours, or watch this world suffer the consequences.” I’ve been hard on the Man of Steel trailers to this point, so credit where due: I really like this one — Great sound mixing, and Michael Shannon seems like he’s going to be a good deal of fun.
“No one should deny themselves their own weirdness. Calvin is never afraid to boldly declare his weirdness, even when doing so results in his classmates ostracizing him and his teachers and parents disciplining him. To act any other way, to be any other person, is an option that never even enters his head.”
10 Life Lessons from Calvin & Hobbes. A bit cloying at times, but hey, the world always needs more posts about Calvin & Hobbes. Also, if you can’t imagine yourself a tiger buddy for these, a crazy sheltie will also do.
“Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation.”
“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS” — George Lucas.
“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie.’ Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least.” — Peter Jackson
“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.” — Terry Gilliam.
“I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.” — James Cameron
“In a statement from his three children, they said he ‘is one with the Force’ and thanked their father’s fans and friends for their longtime support. ‘Every time we find someone’s lack of faith disturbing, we’ll think of him.’”
Somebody had to speak truth to power: Richard LeParmentier, best known as Admiral Motti, 1946-2013. “The Pittsburgh-born actor worked regularly throughout the 70s and 80s, appearing in such films as Octopussy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
I have yet to see Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, but it seems like it’d make a decent double feature with this one: Emma Watson leads a pack of ne-er-do-well teens into the mansions of LA’s idle rich in the first trailer for Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, also with Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, and Leslie Mann. Eh, ok. On the bright side, this doesn’t have to be very good to be far better than Somewhere.
The inimitable Tony Leung does his best Neo impression in the rain in our first look at Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster, also with Zhang Ziyi. This is a lousy teaser, and the muddy, gray jump-cuttiness of it all is inauspicious for the director’s first foray into martial arts. But, hey, Tony Leung.
I dunno…Of course we don’t want to see the same movies as in the past, but much like Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, the tone feels off here to me. Superman isn’t Batman. He’s not particularly angsty, usually, and imo should just be the Last Boy Scout. I’m not sure I much like this Most Dangerous Catch walkabout stuff they have him doing. (And that stilted Russell Crowe voiceover doesn’t inspire confidence either.) But we’ll see.
Or for a longer but equally goofy answer, see Louis Menand in The New Yorker, circa 2002: “The Cat in the Hat was a Cold War invention. His value as an analyst of the psychology of his time…is readily appreciated: transgression and hypocrisy are the principal themes of his little story. But he also stands in an intimate and paradoxical relation to national-security policy. He was both its creature and its nemesis — the unraveller of the very culture that produced him and that made him a star.”
“[M]aybe they’re all working off out-of-date history books, and think they’re invading the nerve centre of an empire covering a quarter of the globe. In the event that the nation’s favourite Time Lord ever fails to repel them, the Daleks are going to be deeply embarrassed to discover that all they’ve won possession of is a slightly rainy archipelago full of financial services professionals and sarcasm.”
“The mysterious structure is cone shaped, made of ‘unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders,’ and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons, the researchers said. That makes it heavier than most modern-day warships.” A sonar survey of the Sea of Galilee uncovers a large, ancient, and man-made cairn beneath the waves. “Underwater archaeological excavation is needed so scientists can find associated artifacts and determine the structure’s date and purpose, the researchers said.” Seems pretty clear it was built either to hide an ancient spaceship or hold in Cthulhu.
In the trailer bin, working class stiff Matt Damon aims to crack open the stately lunar pleasure domes of the 1% in our first look at Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, also with Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner and Wagner Moura. The Damon-in-the-exoskeleton battle scenes do have a distinctly District 9 sensibility about them.
“‘After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games,’ Disney informed Game Informer in a statement. ‘As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.’”
Granted there hasn’t been a must-play Star Wars game since Knights of the Old Republic in 2003, and that was mostly on account of Bioware. But give credit where due – in the late 80′s and early 90′s, LucasArts had an unparalleled record of excellent games: Maniac Mansion, Zack McCracken, Sam and Max, Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Grimm Fandango, Dark Forces, and, of course, the original X-Wing.
“Whilst previous cloaking studies have used metamaterials to divert, or bend, the incoming waves around an object, this new method, which the researchers dub ‘mantle cloaking’, uses an ultrathin metallic metascreen to cancel out the waves as they are scattered off the cloaked object.”
Social Media friends and Flickr followers have probably already noticed that my actual doctoral diploma arrived in the mail last week. (Speaking of which, there’s a good economics dissertation to be written on the bizarrely high cost of professional framing.) On the same day, I also received this sweet congratulations gift from my girlfriend Amy: A print of the estimable Professor Frink examining Homer J. Simpson’s (lack of) brainwaves as he peruses the old dissertation, while Berk and I look on.
“This series is an experiment where a dictator, a psycho, a murderer (sometimes they are the whole package) or even a suspicious figure from real life is mashed with a comics bad guy – strangely related some way or the other with his counterpart.” Brazilian artist Butcher Billy’s Legion of Doom, by way of Normative.
“This is not a list of the ‘best’ fantasy or SF. There are huge numbers of superb works not on the list. Those below are chosen not just because of their quality – which though mostly good, is variable – but because the politics they embed (deliberately or not) are of particular interest to socialists.”
Sci-fi author China Mieville (Perdido Street Station, Iron Council, The City & The City) offers up his personal list of the 50 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Works Every Socialist Should Read, including Octavia Butler, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edward Bellamy, Iain Banks, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Mervyn Peake. “Ayn Rand—Atlas Shrugged (1957): Know your enemy. This panoply of portentous Nietzcheanism lite has had a huge influence on American SF. Rand was an obsessive ‘objectivist’ (libertarian pro-capitalist individualist) whose hatred of socialism and any form of ‘collectivism’ is visible in this important and influential – though vile and ponderous – novel.”
“Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. ‘Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay.’” Lots of strange, Wicker Man-ish postings at Scarfolk Council, one of the more strange-creepy-cool sites I’ve stumbled on of late.
Latino Review scores big news from the emerging Star Wars empire at Disney (and many Bothans died to bring them this information): Harrison Ford is officially signed to return as everyone’s favorite Corellian smuggler in the next set of Star Wars movies. Presumably he’ll be joining Luke and Leia in the JJ Abrams sequel trilogy, not the rumored Han Solo spin-off movie. Either way, don’t blow this, Han.
FWIW, as a Star Wars kid, I’m mostly OK with this ginormous SW revival over at the Mouse. The prequel trilogy — especially Attack of the Clones — already broke the seal in terms of bringing bad Star Wars into the world. So, even if this all seems extremely commercialized even for a franchise that was always driven by toy sales, I’m still curious to see other diverse and talented filmmakers playing in the great sandbox Lucas made. But JJ Abrams? Eh. I already saw his Star Wars movie back when it was called Star Trek.
I get the feeling X:DFP is either going to be amazing or an overstuffed Last Stand-like disaster. Still, it’s yet another testament to just how decisively fanboys have won the culture war when they’re making a movie of one of the most iconic X-Men tales with both casts from the previous films — the McAvoy/Fassbender/Lawrence team of First Class and the Stewart/McKellen/Jackman team of the first three films. An ensemble movie and no mistake.
“In The Sparrow we follow two stories: The global miscommunications that arise when one culture attempts to convert another, and one man’s crippling loss of faith. On February 1st, Russell herself announced that The Sparrow might finally be flying from page to screen.” In intriguing TV news, AMC options Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow for a possible television series. (My thoughts on the book are here, and its sequel here.) Now, who to play Father Sandoz…Ciaran Hinds?
“Granted, The Avengers’ vision of Britishness, while rooted in some truths about the national character, was pure fantasy. But it’s an attractive fantasy: this land where the heroes are tasteful yet fashionable, reserved yet lascivious, demure yet effective.”
Before Mulder and Scully, there was Steed and Peel: In the AV Club, Noel Murray sings the praises of “The Avengers’ stylish, lascivious vision of Britishness. I’ll confess that Mrs. Peel remains one of my earliest and enduring fanboy crushes. “[T]he secret to The Avengers’ ribaldry was that it isn’t just about sex: It’s also about power. Gale and Peel didn’t just flummox men with their beauty; they also had brilliant minds, and they kicked gents’ posteriors, routinely.” (Images via Heather McLendon.)
“The Sunjammer mission – the name is borrowed from an Arthur C. Clarke short story about an interplanetary yacht race — will unfurl a solar sail that dwarfs those that have thus far been tested in space. Where NanoSail-D’s diminutive sail measured just 100 square feet and Japan’s IKAROS measures something like 2,000 square feet, Sunjammer’s sail possesses a total surface area of nearly 13,000 square feet. Yet collapsed it weighs just 70 pounds and takes up about as much space as a dishwasher, making it easy to stow in the secondary payload bay of a rocket headed to low Earth orbit.“
Popular Science previews the flight of NASA’s Sunjammer, set for launch in 2014. “The destination for Sunjammer is the Earth-Sun Lagrange Point 1, a gravitationally stable spot way out there between us and our nearest star…Sunjammer will be carrying the cremated remains of various individuals, including Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry.”
“Warcraft has grown to be one of the most popular multiplayer online role-playing games. Taking an almost kitchen-sink approach to fantasy, it is part fantasy, part science fiction and — depending on the game you’re playing — includes elements such as dragons and orcs, zombies and werewolves, aliens and spaceships.“
“It took me and about 100 other builders a little over 4 months to build the whole thing. We estimate there are around 3000 unique buildings, all hand made and all fully decorated on the interior.”
Best build some wildfire…A group of audacious (and bored) GRRM-enthusiasts recreate the entirety of King’s Landing in Minecraft. I’ve yet to try Minecraft, since quite frankly I’m afraid to court another gaming addiction. But everything I read about it makes it seem like it’s eventually going to be the online world described in the namedroppy but compulsively readable Ready Player One.
“This past Saturday, one misplaced mouse click in MMORPG EVE Online sent a lone Titan spaceship hurtling into enemy territory, triggering a cascade of alliances somewhat akin to the run-up to World War I, and resulting in one of the largest space battles ever seen in the history of the game.”
Stories We Tell (4/10) Star Trek: Into Khan (4/10) The Great Gatsby (7.5/10) Iron Man 3 (8.5/10) Oblivion (6.5/10) To the Wonder (3/10) Side Effects (6/10) West of Memphis (7/10) GitM BEST OF 2012 GitM Review Archive
Hidden Cities, Moses Gates
What It Takes, Richard Ben Cramer Founding Finance, William Hogeland Twilight of the Elites, Chris Hayes Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams The Forever War, Joe Haldeman Uphill all the Way, Kevin Murphy